For Ryan Scholz, everything was ok. Fine, in fact. He was in advertising and branding, working for a couple of realty companies. Not a bad job, but it wasn’t fueling his passion. With a background in hospitality, he had always dreamed of creating a space where people could congregate, feel welcome and relax.
The gradual gentrification of the industrial area of Vancouver’s North Shore was starting to make news by attracting interesting and unique businesses. This gave Ryan an idea which ignited a spark that was fuel for his fire. Always interested in the relationship alcohol had with the media, the thought of branding his own beer and brewery was just the motivation he’d been looking for.
Ryan began chatting with David Varga, an experienced brewer who had made a huge name for himself in the industry. The two men, along with another of Ryan’s long term friends, Rohan Karnick, formed a partnership and set forth on a journey to fulfill their dreams.
For Ryan, creating the brand was almost as important as the quality of the product. Although a painstaking and heavy investment in time, Ryan knew that excellent branding would help propel and sustain the business. He didn’t want anything to tie him to a geographical location, so Ryan researched the area for its history and uncovered a gold mine.
In the mid 1800’s, tales of huge, straight trees brought ships from Chile to BC for the lumber. It was not uncommon for young sailors to jump ship in search of a better life, certainly preferable to the harsh conditions at sea. Before long, many of the men married into the local indigenous families and a blended Chilean community developed.
The local lumber mill and the contributions of the blended families played a crucial role in the development of Vancouver’s North Shore as we know it today. Cedar was harvested for lumber, a byproduct of which were the ideal roofing shakes, in high demand for the rapidly expanding city of Vancouver. As a result, the area of the mill, now known as Lynn Valley, took on the nickname of “Shaketown”.
This jumped out at Ryan. He hired a creative agency called “Very Polite” and they ran with the idea. Their team came back with an elaborate, multi-layered backstory, loosely based on fact but rich with humorous fiction which gave the entire business an immediate, welcoming personality.
Ryan wasn’t the only one hard at work, David in the meantime had been testing and perfecting his recipes. The challenge was creating a flavourful, yet low alcohol beer, so he drew upon his specialty for continental European ales and lagers, traditionally low in alcohol, and merged those techniques with modern tastes and trends.
The triumphant result was the flagship, award-winning Leichtbier, Just 3.0% and yet shockingly full-flavoured and easy-drinking, making it perfect for social interaction. It leads the line up of equally innovative creations, such as the Itty-Bitty IPA at only 3.5% and Kviek Wheat Beer at 4.0%.
Their choice of location was brilliant in that, since opening, other similar businesses have opened up next door and nearby, creating a whole new attraction for tourists and locals alike. “The Shipyards district” has rapidly become one of the best public spaces in western Canada. Bursting with restaurants, museums, attractions, more than 8 breweries and distilleries, and only a 7 minute walk from the Sea-Bus connecting them to downtown Vancouver, it’s a mecca for everyone to enjoy.
Shaketown’s building was as well thought out as every other aspect of the business. The colourful backstory is written on the wall creating several photo opportunities and making the space a fun place to be.
On full view is the Specific Mechanical 20 HL, 3 vessel brewing system. When David is asked if he’s happy with the system, Ryan is quick to jump in and say, after ever batch brewed, David throws his hands in the air and shouts, “I love this brewhouse! It does everything I want it to do perfectly!”
David had worked on Specific equipment in the past and was familiar with the quality, but the partners did their research and looked at other brands. In the end, they came back to Specific, knowing they would get what they paid for and the result is already winning awards after just one year.
With distribution increasing and line-ups forming to experience the tasting room, the future of Shaketown is bright. Their patio is one of the nicest on the North Shore and the crowds flocking to the Shipyard District looking to try new tastes and enjoy fresh experiences are plentiful. Despite their runaway success, the partners will remain focused on their core brands, making sure their growth is slow and steady. That conservative approach is in stark contrast to the historic roots written on the wall for all to enjoy…it’s just tough to know what to believe!